Thinking about 50-100w tube heads options

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by monsterthompson, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    I have recently had a hankering for a tube head. I sorta miss my 200w Buster, but it was big, heavy, and way louder than I need. My Demeter was recently out for repair, and I liked using my 20w Mesa Subway Rocket combo amp's pre and power section (all tube) into my Barefaced cab. It was plenty for solo practice. However, I once owned an Ashdown LB30 and I know 30w isn't enough to use with my occasional live jams (I'm not playing gigs, so I don't need big volume).

    The elimination thought process I've gone through looks like this...

    I thought the Ampeg 50w head would be nice, but the tone in the demos doesn't trip my trigger, and I've not enjoyed my experiences with Ampeg, so that's out.

    Fender Bassman 100T is perfect, in terms of features. Particularly the ability to go from 100w to 25w or silent for recording. The demos aren't thrilling me, and the size/weight isn't quite winning me over, but it's not silly. Price isn't bad.

    The Mesa Prodigy is wonderful for size/weight. I like Mesa tone, and I liked the sound when testing one in the shop. I think this guy is a pretty strong contender. The wattage is probably overkill for home use, but would certainly work for live jams.

    Creeping into Mesa Prodigy price has made me think about possible bumping up to custom builds. So, here's what I'm looking at, thinking about, and seeking advice on.

    MATAMP/Green - Either one of their 50-ish watt tube heads, or asking for a custom 200 or 120. The smaller wattage won't save much weight. I like Doom-y tones, and have a Ric.

    Verellen - American builder with a good rep and known to do custom. I'm not sure I know what the stock Meatsmoke design is based around, but it seems there is room for custom requests.

    Reeves - The demos intrigue me. They have a standard 50w platform custom options, which seem aimed at guitarists, but I'd imagine could be tweaked as needed for bass.

    What I'm uncertain about is if I'd definitely like the tone of a custom head vs. the known tone of the Prodigy. I'm also not seeing that the customs could get close to the Prodigy size/weight. For the extra money of a custom, it'd be nice to get "everything" I want. It's hard to argue the Mesa warranty and the fact there's a shop a short drive from my house.

    Should I just plan to jump on a Prodigy? Is there another option to consider that I've overlooked? I know I mentioned this in the past, but I'll say it again; I've got a physical handicap which makes me more sensitive than most people when it comes to moving gear. And, for reference, my only cab is a Barefaced BB2.
  2. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    If you want lightweight and tube the Prodigy seems to be the way to go. Especially if you like blue lights. I myself would go for the bassman. Something so right and it's not that heavy.

    It's hard to judge tone by video. I personally think the bassman is pretty versatile.
    rodl2005 and monsterthompson like this.
  3. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    Yeah. Probably worth a trip to the shop to test one out. It really hits it out of the park on features.
    aproud1 likes this.
  4. CalBuzz51


    Mar 11, 2016
    I'm kinda hoping the Handbox wb-100 will jump out of the ether and become thing of realness soon. It looks like it's supposed to be 30lbs in it's case.
    JxBass and monsterthompson like this.
  5. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    That demo vodeo is dope. I like the crunch sounds it shows better than the cranked/clipping pre section of a Prodigy.
    JxBass likes this.
  6. I've only used a 100T instore. But it has the same pre amp as my Super Bassman.
    It's a VERY versatile front end. The 'vintage' channel is sweet and the blend able overdrive- which can go from none to lots - on the "overdrive" channel (which should really just be called the ACTIVE channel or something. .. - the drive can be sculpted a heap using the eq...especially the mid level and sweepable mid eq.
    The Super Bassman is my fave amp of all time. And I've used a heap since the 70s. ..and mostly all tube. ..coz that's my bag.
    I'm not sure how much of the Super Bassman's tone is from the 6x6550 power tubes. .. but if the 100T is anything like it. ... :hyper::bassist::hyper:
    monsterthompson likes this.
  7. Anachronism

    Anachronism Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2014
    I currently use a Buster and a Meatsmoke preamp, and have dabbled with Mesa guitar amps driving bass cabs. Here are a few thoughts.

    The Meatsmoke is a great design, but it is meant to provide a lot of gain (yes, it can do clean, but that's not really the point). If your fondness for Doom-y tones mean that liked running the Buster with the gain at 1:30 or higher, and then adding pedals as needed, the Meatsmoke might be for you (if you like the tone on Dopesmoker, then it really is). If you preferred the cleaner Buster tones, then it probably isn't. Also, the all-tube Meatsmoke heads look pretty hefty.

    A single rectifier (or other Mesa guitar amp in that range) might work for you. I've generally found Mesa guitar amps to produce good bass tones through the right cab, but I think that 50 watts and some big iron is probably better than the lunchbox amps if you're jamming with others. And that reintroduces the question of weight.
    monsterthompson likes this.
  8. JES

    JES Supporting Member

    I liked the Prodigy but I also liked the Ampeg 50w head. You might try one at a store. Someone in LA must have one. I don't trust videos for tone.
  9. Interceptor


    Mar 29, 2005
    Madison, WI
    I decided to go back to tubes again earlier this year to nail the right vibe for a band. In the past, I used a Bassman 100 for the sort of tone I was after, and it worked well. This go around, I went with an Ampeg PF-50T and couldn't be happier.

    I demo'd a 100T and liked it a lot. Good heft, I get along well with a Fender tone stack, and the thing had all the features I could ever desire. I went with the Ampeg over the Fender on price, the Ampeg had even more heft, and I really like the post power amp DI. The only downside to the Ampeg is transporting it. I ended up using an old Samsonite carry on bag and cutting foam to fit. I have been gigging it steadily with a TL-606 made of 1/2" Birch and it has been great in every room. I do get PA in the larger rooms, and the post power amp DI puts a smile on my face every time. As a point of reference, I'm mostly a live guy. When I do studio work, I plug into what ever they provide. These days, I'm digging the tone the last guy got out of me through a Neve clone.

    Try 'em both!
    jharms80439 and monsterthompson like this.
  10. P-oddz

    P-oddz Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    Milwaukee, WI
    I know you discounted the PF-50T, (and kind of poo pooed Ampeg in general), but did you ever consider/try the V4B Reissue?
    lowplaces likes this.
  11. coreyfyfe

    coreyfyfe Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2007
    boston, ma
    I've only played a meatsmoke in a store (and technically it was a saturn IV so a MS with verb without the mid switch), with an ampeg V4B 2x15 folded horn cab, so there's some caveats there on sound. The drive was very much in the doomy over the top territory. Too much so for my tastes to be honest. I actually really dug the cleans, it was very big and present. I didn't like the tone of the drive. Would be a great sounding amp for really someone looking for those heavily driven tones, and maybe with a different cab it might have been different for me, but wasn't my thing.

    LeftyD and monsterthompson like this.
  12. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    My Ampeg experiences in the past have been such that none of their products will be considered. I'm not saying a good Ampeg product doesn't exist, but that I will not spend more time searching for one that works for me.
  13. lowplaces

    lowplaces Got Punch ?

    Dec 20, 2015
    Louisville Kentucky
    Take my input with a grain of salt.
    I'm a little bit on the short side as far as technical knowledge but I know what sounds good when I hear it.

    That said, the Ampeg PF-50t is one sweet amp.

    I could not try one out here locally so I ordered one and honestly the first few minutes with it, I wasn't all that impressed. When I engaged the ultra-low switch I was like "this sounds like crap".

    So I took a little break and reread the manual and fired it back up. After I spent quite a while getting to know how the tone stack works, I found it to be worthy of all the love these heads get around here.

    I was moving from a 500 watt Class D head to the PF-50T. Completely different animals.

    Over on the PortaFlex club thread, there is a guy who basically had the same experience as I did at first. He reported it is being too boomy no matter what he did. A day or so later he posted he was now very happy with it. He figured out how to use the EQ and realized it was the room that was boomy.

    Anyhow go with your gut feeling. All I can offer is, I dig the PF-50T so much I bought another one.

    If you can find one to check out locally, I think it would be time well spent. The $150 rebate on these apps runs about 9 more days.

    There may be other low-watt heads out there that sound as good as the PF-50T but I'd be willing to wager none of them sound better.

    Good luck in the hunt :thumbsup:

    Edit to add : the ultra-low switch that put me off initially is now always on
  14. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    All Matamp are kind of custom, but the GT200 MKII and the GT120 are both standard offerings, so clips about.

    My mark 1 and Barefaced cab:
    monsterthompson and Plutonium244 like this.
  15. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    Drool. This trips my trigger.

    Any suggestions on what you'd go with from the current "standard" offerings? The 120MV seems like overkill for my needs, but still sexy.
    The 1224 has caught my attention.
    Matamp 1224 handmade valve guitar amp head | Matamp
    The 1224 derives it name from the output valve switching system which allows the player to select between 1 or 2 valves in class A, and 2 or 4 valves in class AB. With the new easy to use 1224 rotary control in place of the push button matrix the player can simply select how many output valves to use and what class they are working in. There is also a triode pentode half power switch which is located on the rear of the chassis. The result of the switching allows the amplifier to operate at different power levels from a mere 2.5w to 50w.


    The GT200 is a KT88 amp (similar to the Prodigy).
    The GT 120MV is EL34 as is the 1224.
    Not sure how much of the "tone" comes from the power section choice. I know there are posts on the internet explaining general voices for various types.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2017
  16. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    ^True this.
    The reality is tubes = weight. No real way around it. Have you tried the Ampeg V4B?
    To me, it is between the V4B and the Bassman 100. Pick the one you like. IHMO, custom build amps don't really offer much more than a production amp other than a larger price tag.
  17. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    I'd avoid the 1224, million options, not very good at any of them sort of amp, for the 'I don't know what I want' market, see a lot of them come up second had, which is telling. Watts are a really minor factor. Choice of power valve is a really minor factor, amp working right with what is has is important. The volume control works, so too much power isn't a thing. I use a GT200 and I have used a GT120, both at once was ideal, kind of a case of GT200 for neck pickup, GT120 for bridge pickup, but I run a signal path for each, so both.
    monsterthompson likes this.
  18. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    Assuming our ears are similar, this is a useful bit of info. I tend to be a neck pickup kind of guy (except for on my Ric). As one of the few Matamp users I know of, have you ever played the Prodigy? I'd be curious about any similarities/differences.
  19. CalBuzz51


    Mar 11, 2016
    I found a Musicman RD 50 thats $500 for 50w, 2x6L6 but solid state pre and designed as guitar amp. It weighs about 22 lbs, head only, but that's likely due to lightish transformer. I'll check it out later today, but ready for it to be a red herring.

    It appears Andy Fuchs mods these things for "ODS" I'm sure it could be modded for bass but then likely lots more $$$ and lbs.
  20. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    Mesa stuff isn't really competitive here, and I don'[t accept them for repairs, so not had much to do with them since I traded my Strategy power amp for a Laney Nexus years ago.
    monsterthompson likes this.
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